Monday, 1 June 2009

F.E. Sillanpää: Silja - 4


On the contrary, the consequences of that moment extended very far, and from the very first in different directions. It was not long before the old master noticed what was transpiring. He did his best tried to turn a blind eye to it, but a young love of that kind, which has not yet led to any actions, fills all its surroundings with a curious shimmer. It spreads out from the lovers, from their every word and movement, even from their silence. A small and innocent fragment of melody, hummed somewhere, is in this situation like a mighty thunder. But the master of Salmelus found it impossible to think clearly and simply about matters that were alien to him. And so now too his principal thought was of how much had altered in the manor’s everyday life since the mistress’s death, of how much that had been lost would of necessity remain irrecoverable, or would only be recovered in ways that were strange… The master of Salmelus felt uneasy when he realized that his thoughts had fixed upon the most wretched of wretched side-issues: that the girl was a poor hired servant. ‘Not, it is not that, I don’t mean that’ – and it seemed to him that this circumstance even gave the girl a touch of alien superiority. But in these small and ever more frequent actions the old man something else – the first grimaces of fate's approaching mockery. There had been an unobserved deviation from the old, familiar path, and the ground beneath one’s feet was manifestly not to be relied on now. And if this continued, it would be night before the earlier path were found again – if ever it were found.

The old master perceived, all of a sudden, that nothing on the manor had been put in order since the mistress’s death. How had they been able to manage at all in this way? It was even as if they could manage quite well without her, she whom they had buried in the spring. The master sat pondering in his chamber, and at the same time felt something that he did not want to feel: that somewhere, even at this moment, a grimacing natural force was making two hearts beat, two hearts that were really both innocent. This burgeoning doom was made all the harder by the fact that the couple were so innocent. The master pondered as he looked at the dark clumps of alders and fields of clover in August, the harvest month. ‘I must ask Marta to come here. Perhaps she will be able to remedy the change by making another.’

He wrote a letter to his sister and took it to the post office that same evening. At the post office he received a letter that awaited him poste restante, containing an invitation to a wedding that was to be held far away, in the third parish from there. He came home in the dusk and, in allusion to the wedding, said to Kustaa: ‘You will have to go, I do not really feel able to.’

Kustaa agreed, with genuine jubilation. Under the present circumstances, it was very easy for him to embark on a happy journey of this kind. When he left, their eyes exchanged earnest and mutual assurances, and when he arrived there, Kustaa of Salmelus was a radiant and handsome wedding guest.

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Silja - 2
Silja - 3

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